2023 Eddies Awards: Most Actionable Tools & Research

The Eddies—annual, advocate-nominated and voted awards—feature strategic advocacy that is driving impactful policy change.

This Eddies category spotlights resources or tools that shed new light on pressing and widespread problems or solutions and that state and local advocates across the Network leveraged to make a compelling case for policy change and achieve breakthroughs.

See a complete list of 2023 nominees in all Eddies categories. Staff at PIE Network members and partner organizations, check your inbox for a link to vote in each category. Don’t see it? Email [email protected].

Most Actionable Tools & Research Winner

Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University – ESSER BUNNY SAVES THE DAY! A Dashboard with actual district-by-district data on relief spending

In early pandemic days, Congress deployed an eye-popping $190 billion to districts with little ask in return. Districts did draft “plans,” but those were moot as soon as the labor market tightened, inflation hit, and math scores plummeted. The feds weren’t collecting any data on how districts were spending these dollars, effectively leaving advocates in the dark on the largest-ever infusion of public funds in our public education system. Then came the ESSER bunny to the rescue! That’s the unofficial name of Edunomics Lab’s ESSER Expenditure Dashboard, where users can track ESSER spending in every US district via the first national —and freely accessible—online tracker. To surface accurate ESSER spending data, Edunomics Lab scrambled to build a data portal and assemble timely and accurate data from all 50 states, often deploying complex scraping code to wrangle thousands of lines of data out of near-impenetrable e-grant systems. Based on media interest, feedback, and web traffic (the dashboard has been accessed over 29,000 times), advocates and leaders are mining the data for insights into spending in their communities, and using that to inform how remaining funds should be targeted to the students and schools who need them most.

Most Actionable Tools & Research Finalists

BEST NC: Teacher Pay in North Carolina – A Smart Investment in Student Achievement

Research finds that teachers are the most significant in-school factor for student success. And yet, most proposals around teacher compensation are just asking for “more of the same.’ In 2023, BEST NC examined the root cause of teacher compensation and pipeline challenges, specifically the outdated step-and-lane salary schedule used in most states, which hinders our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest to teach. Teacher Pay in North Carolina: A Smart Investment in Student Achievement is an extensive, first-of-its-kind report that examines how existing teacher pay structures fail to address decades-long shifts in our national workforce and are inadequate for meeting the personal and professional needs of teachers. Instead of “more of the same,” the report offers a specific set of research-based solutions that align teacher pay levels and structures with how other high-skilled professionals are compensated to attract top-tier talent, fill vacancies, and retain/motivate staff. With its grounding in national best practices for high-skilled employees, every state and district can find actionable research and recommendations to strengthen their compensation systems. Several of the report’s recommendations are already included in NC policy proposals this year, including funding Advanced Teaching Roles pay for teachers and front-loading the pay schedule.

Data Quality Campaign (DQC) – A Vision to Transform State Data Systems to Inform People’s Pathways through Education and the Workforce

DQC’s vision to transform state data systems sets a new goal for state education and workforce data. The vision clearly defines the kinds of data access that state data systems should enable for individuals, the public, and policymakers, while providing state leaders and advocates with a roadmap for how to make data access a reality. The resource gives advocates a tool to ground conversations about the data access their communities deserve, state leaders the roadmap for how to make it happen, and national leaders the context for how they can ease and expedite this work across the country. With this resource, every PIE Network member can support their state leaders to move forward with the crucial work of changing their state data systems to ease transitions between education and workforce for individuals and the public, and provide policymakers with the information they need to support these transitions.

Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University – ESSER BUNNY SAVES THE DAY! A Dashboard with actual district-by-district data on relief spending

In early pandemic days, Congress deployed an eye-popping $190 billion to districts with little ask in return. Districts did draft “plans,” but those were moot as soon as the labor market tightened, inflation hit, and math scores plummeted. The feds weren’t collecting any data on how districts were spending these dollars, effectively leaving advocates in the dark on the largest-ever infusion of public funds in our public education system. Then came the ESSER bunny to the rescue! That’s the unofficial name of Edunomics Lab’s ESSER Expenditure Dashboard, where users can track ESSER spending in every US district via the first national —and freely accessible—online tracker. To surface accurate ESSER spending data, Edunomics Lab scrambled to build a data portal and assemble timely and accurate data from all 50 states, often deploying complex scraping code to wrangle thousands of lines of data out of near-impenetrable e-grant systems. Based on media interest, feedback, and web traffic (the dashboard has been accessed over 29,000 times), advocates and leaders are mining the data for insights into spending in their communities, and using that to inform how remaining funds should be targeted to the students and schools who need them most.

National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) – Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction

Tens of thousands of teachers step into classrooms each year without the training needed to help students learn to read. NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction analyzed nearly 700 teacher preparation programs across the country, showing state leaders, policymakers, and programs themselves where teacher preparation could do better. It provided customized course-level feedback and individualized state profiles illustrating the quality of states’ prep programs and reading policies, coupled with highly personalized campaigns supporting state leaders, advocates, and programs to drive improvement. This report and resources are already yielding policy changes and galvanizing action. The Teacher Prep Review shaped the narrative on teacher prep’s critical role in reading instruction, with 645 traditional news media mentions by early July. NCTQ engaged with PIE network members, advocates, policymakers across the nation through 20 webinars held with an estimated 250+ attendees, and more than 20 individual phone calls.  The Teacher Prep Review catalyzed and informed legislative action: NY legislator announced a science of reading bill aimed at teacher prep programs; Ohio recently passed legislation holding teacher prep programs accountable after NCTQ supported local advocates’ push; and NCTQ partnered with advocates in New Mexico, Illinois, and Georgia to supply new data and analysis that yielded new literacy laws focused on teacher prep to support teachers and their students in learning to read.

National Parents Union (NPU) – National Parent Poll

The National Parents Union (NPU) knows that recommending solutions to the challenges faced by children means having data-driven arguments to back them up. Which is why NPU prioritizes listening directly to parents by conducting the only national poll developed by parent advocates for parents. The polling is designed to ensure that parent perspectives are infused into public policy debates and media coverage about issues facing American families. The monthly survey keeps NPU ahead of the debates on core issues, including the on-going “culture war,” curriculum and content access. Our polls often test support for bills on issues such as equitable access to basic needs, literacy and student assessment. NPU purposefully includes elements of proposed legislation in our polls so lawmakers know how parents feel about upcoming bills. Additionally, NPU polls are shared quarterly with the U.S. Department of Education, offering information about current challenges, and outlining solutions identified by families. Data points are shared in Congressional policy briefs and policy papers, and data from the March 2023 poll was entered into Congressional Record during the debate on H.R.5. Additionally, NPU polling data has been used to help form, pass and advance legislation across the country.

NewMexicoKidsCAN – Literacy Toolkit & Literacy Action Center

The NewMexicoKidsCAN Literacy Toolkit can be replicated, branded and used by other advocacy organizations across the country. The toolkit breaks down the key information about early literacy in terms that make sense to parents. Additionally, it provides parents tools to meaningfully engage with their child’s teacher so that they can collaboratively support their student in the literacy journey. Reading instruction will not change in classrooms without a groundswell of community knowledge building and support. Though policy is important, we need informed community members to know and understand the policy to help support its implementation. This is one of the only tools that exists to help everyday parents understand the complexities of reading instruction and encourages them to take a more active role in their child’s literacy journey. The Literacy Toolkit is paired with the Literacy Action Center which guides parents and community members through a journey of action steps that will help them build their knowledge and context for the ‘reading wars.’ Together, both tools provide necessary support for the community to help improve literacy in their child’s classroom, their local district and across New Mexico.

Most Actionable Tools & Research Honorable Mentions

50CAN, FutureEd – Advocacy Labs

FutureEd and 50CAN teamed up to create AdvocacyLabs, which brings the latest insights from academic research on advocacy to the education sector. In 2023, they focused on the world of electoral advocacy, exploring how local advocates can build the political clout needed to make big changes in education. Their report provided seven practical lessons that organizations in the Network can put to use right away.

Advance Illinois – The State We’re In: A Look at the Impact of COVID-19 on Education in Illinois (SWI 2022)

Advance’s The State We’re In: A Look at the Impact of COVID-19 on Education in Illinois (SWI 2022) was the only report of its kind in the state to focus on COVID-19’s effect on Illinois school communities from birth to college during the 2020- 2021 school year — informing both advocates and decision makers about the work needed in the coming years to overcome the significant disruptions created by the pandemic. SWI 2022 explored student enrollment, access to instruction and student supports, academic progress, and social-emotional well-being by examining data across the b- 20 continuum according to region, ethnicity, language, household income, and education delivery style (remote or in- person). In doing so, it highlighted areas of opportunity for data-driven policy making and compelling and timely data points to inform ongoing advocacy for adequate and equitable resources to help every Illinois student recover from COVID’s far-reaching yet disparate impacts. For nationally-focused researchers and organizations, SWI 2022 provided insight into the challenges Illinois is facing and examples of strategies that leaders on the ground are using to support student success—contributing to a broader national knowledge base on COVID’s impacts on the country’s education sector and emerging solutions to its disruptions

Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) – CREDO National Charter School Study

CREDO’s National Charter School Study is the most comprehensive research on the charter sector to date. Over the course of three study reports, CREDO illuminated the impact of public charter schools over the past twenty years. The most recent report, the National Charter School Study III, includes 81% of tested public school students across the country—one of the largest student-level datasets to date. Due to the comprehensive nature of the data sets, and the length of time over which CREDO has studied charter schools, this research is significant in supporting conversations about public charter schools at the state and national level. Nationally, CREDO results showed that charter school students outpaced their traditional public school peers across math and reading, advancing their learning by 6 and 16 days, respectively. Results are more impressive for historically underserved student groups, with students in poverty, Black, and Hispanic students in charter schools having stronger growth than their TPS peers. This data makes the case that public charter schools have a significant, positive impact on students. National data also illuminated areas for improvement, such as serving students with disabilities, driving discussions around how to support the sector in providing strong outcomes for all student groups.

Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) – ASDP Report #4: Teaching Recovery? Three years in, school system leaders report that the pandemic weakened instruction.

The American School District Panel (ASDP) is the first and only nationally representative sample of school district and charter management organization (CMO) leaders. Throughout the ASDP report series, the narrative that emerged is one of recovery plans thwarted by unexpected circumstances, requiring systems to abandon once-ambitious student recovery plans to address, among other things, a crisis in classroom teaching quality. In this latest report we learn that, after years of constantly adjusting to pandemic protocols, teachers were being asked to “return to normal” plus learn new strategies to not only get students back on track, but to speed up student learning in order to recover from the lost classroom time. Upticks in resignations among beleaguered veteran staff, burnout among those who stayed, lots of new hires, and inconsistent additional supports all significantly contributed to a drop in instructional quality. This report, with its unguarded feedback from dozens of system leaders, is a unique peek into systemic challenges that force us to confront new, uncomfortable but critical questions: Is a teaching recovery necessary before a student recovery can begin in earnest? Is it too much to expect school systems to rebuild teaching and support students’ academic recovery?

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) – HITs and Misses: Reports from the Field

In March of 2022, we released a report on high-impact tutoring (HIT) entitled “HITs and Misses: Reports from the Field” on how districts around the country are implementing high-impact tutoring programs, including how they are overcoming key barriers around access, staffing, and scheduling. This one-of-a-kind analysis – building on our previously released guidance for high-impact tutoring (HIT) program implementation – compiles lessons learned and recommendations from a series of more than 20 interviews with school leaders and stakeholders to understand how successful HIT programs are implemented in 6 diverse geographies. Key lessons takeaways include:

• Aligning to evidence-based principles requires extensive time, adaptability, and collaboration;
• It is critical to have designated personnel either externally or internally to manage these moving pieces;
• Many programs are using what seem to be effective platforms for promoting engagement and collaboration among administrators, educators, tutors, and families;
• Requirements that tutors be certified teachers are inconsistent with the evidence base and serve as a major impediment to program reach. Districts that are not limited by these requirements can leverage a variety of strategies to recruit and train tutors.

The report was also highlighted in the second episode of our new podcast, “EdChats,” where we discussed the findings and implications of the report. EdChats premiered in the top 50% of podcasts and provides a new platform for amplification of our policy areas.

Education Resource Strategies – Elementary Scheduling Guide

Every year, every single principal in every elementary school across the country does the same complex task: making their school schedule. When done strategically, school schedules can enable teams to meet the learning needs of every student in their building—holding enormous potential to ensure that every student has access to an equitable and excellent education. ERS created an interactive Elementary Scheduling Guide for the Nebraska Department of Education, which was then adapted to be applicable to any state context. This guidebook is now positioned for far-reaching impact: Any school principal, as part of their annual scheduling process, can use this guidebook to design a strategic schedule and advance education equity. State education agencies, policymakers, and community members can use this resource to inform their decision-making processes and advocate for the conditions that will ensure students will thrive. This tool has already played a crucial role in ongoing discussions at local and state levels, shifting the narrative around the power of school scheduling while offering tangible best practices for school leaders to implement. The tool builds off evidence-backed strategies that are proven to support student learning, highlighting priorities, decision points, trade-offs, and real-world models that school leaders can use every year.

Equable – Who Benefits?: The Per Pupil Pension Subsidy

Non-Network partner: DFER CT

Teacher retirement benefit costs are one of the fastest-growing expenditures in public education. Equable and DFER CT developed a new equity metric—the Per Pupil Pension Subsidy (PPPS)—to illustrate how particular pension funding rules can reinforce unfair educational resource allocations. This research provides a tool for understanding of how opportunities for students can be affected by the process of paying for teacher retirement benefits. The PPPS identifies how much the state spends per student when it makes contributions to state retirement systems on behalf of each school district. PPPS data can then be compared to a range of socioeconomic and demographic factors. In Connecticut, we found that the PPPS systematically disadvantages the districts with the greatest need by allocating more money towards districts that are: higher performing; more affluent; and less diverse. In June 2023, Connecticut adopted legislation to address this source of systemic inequity, creating a new task force to develop legislative solutions to the inequities exacerbated by the PPPS. This research and policy effort is applicable to any state that contributes all or a portion of teacher retirement costs directly to the pension fund and that seeks to address resource inequities for students. Visit http://ctpensionsubsidy.org/ for research design and applicability.

ExcelinEd – Early Literacy Matters

Early Literacy Matters gives state leaders critical data and customized guidance on the policies they need to affect rising student achievement. Key highlights of the site: • Profiles Comprehensive Policy Solutions. ExcelinEd’s comprehensive early literacy policy can transform student achievement. Components include early identification, family engagement, teacher training & support, intensive reading intervention and retention as a last resort for students struggling to read on grade-level. • Defines Partner Roles. From policymakers to education leaders and families, everyone plays a role in ensuring all children have an opportunity to build a strong foundation in early literacy skills. • Provides a 50-State Literacy Landscape. The website demonstrates how the fundamental principles of early literacy are carried out nationwide. Policymakers can learn which state statutes and regulations align with ExcelinEd’s comprehensive policy.

GO Public Schools West Contra Costa – A Parent’s Guide to Special Education

By providing essential information and empowering parents with knowledge, ‘A Parent’s Guide to Special Education‘ enabled them to take a more active role in their children’s education. The guide shifted the narrative by demystifying the IEP process and offering practical tips for parents to navigate meetings and evaluations. It challenged the notion that special education was a daunting and inaccessible realm and instead fostered a more collaborative and supportive approach between parents, educators, and policymakers. Compared to other resources, this tool stands out due to its community-driven nature. Developed by the Special Education Community-Led Committee, it reflects the real needs and experiences of parents and caregivers. This authenticity and direct involvement from the affected community made the guide more relatable and relevant. The significance of this research extends beyond the state or local community due to its transferable nature. The guide’s model, driven by community leadership programming, can be adopted and adapted in other regions, allowing more parents and caregivers across the nation to be equipped with the necessary tools to advocate for their children effectively. The collaboration between community members and policy work showcased how grassroots efforts could drive positive change. As a comprehensive guide, it fills a gap in resources, benefiting parents and caregivers across our regions in California who are navigating the complexities of special education systems. It serves as a valuable blueprint for fostering inclusive education and enhancing parent engagement in the special education process on a broader scale.

myFutureNC – Interoperable & Interconnected Student Data Systems

Non-Network partners: Gartner Inc., Ambrose Strategy, DataWorks Partners, North Carolina Community College System, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, Office of Governor Roy Cooper, University of North Carolina System

As requested by the North Carolina General Assembly, myFutureNC led a comprehensive study of requirements and challenges to create an interconnected and interoperable real-time student data system across the K-16 education spectrum, in partnership with Gartner Inc., Ambrose Strategy, DataWorks Partners, and a steering committee comprised of stakeholders from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the state’s community colleges, the UNC System, the state’s independent colleges and universities, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, and the Office of Governor Roy Cooper. The study resulted in a roadmap for any state seeking to improve students’ abilities to pursue and complete postsecondary education through development and implementation of interoperable student data systems. In North Carolina, this study is prompting funding for design, development, and maintenance of a common digital transcript free to all students and compatible with data systems in use. This application of student data would transform the educational landscape by facilitating communication, collection, and transition of student data between educational institutions as well as providing students control over their own data. The production of a first-of-its-kind common digital transcript holds the promise to dramatically improve growth in educational attainment in North Carolina.

National Alliance of Public Charter Schools – Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment on Education

The National Alliance analyzed findings from a Harris Poll-commissioned survey of 5,000+ parents to gain insights into how parents feel about K-12 education, whether, why and when they have made any changes in how their school-aged children are educated, how their views have changed over the prior two years, and the likelihood of their voting decisions being influenced by views on education. This report impacted policy and advocacy campaigns by providing the field with comprehensive and unassailable data on opinions and concerns of parents regarding their children’s education, shedding light on crucial issues that had long been overlooked. Just in time for the mid-term elections, the true magnitude of parental concerns about education and its likely impact on voting behavior was illuminated. The survey uncovered a myriad of valuable insights, ranging from concerns about safety in schools to the demand for more public charter schools. As the report gained traction, advocacy groups seized the opportunity to align their efforts with the newfound understanding of parental needs and desires. Armed with statistical evidence, these groups found a stronger basis for their campaigns, making compelling cases for policy changes and resource allocations in education. Never Going Back is different from other resources in three ways: 1) The research was by a renowned research institute, The Harris Poll, which was able to provide a powerful and data-driven platform for parents’ voices to be heard. 2) It was important to the National Alliance and The Harris Poll that the sample size of parent voices was large enough to include all perspectives. 3) Furthermore, the report’s findings facilitated open dialogues between stakeholders, allowing policymakers to comprehend the community’s pressing demands. As a result, policy discussions became more inclusive, centered around the genuine needs of students and parents alike.

Our Turn – Youth Consultancy

Students–specifically BIPOC, LGBTQ, and low-income youth–are consistently left out of the education decision-making conversation. The sector increasingly demonstrates a clear need for authentic, equity-centered student engagement; enter Our Turn’s Youth Consultancy (YC). The YC directly engages school districts, networks, boards, and systems leaders with student consultants to elevate and implement insights, practices, and frameworks that increase student engagement, improve equity policies, and deepen systems leaders’ understanding of marginalized youth experiences. In tandem with other student-led and created tools such as Partner Briefings and Superintendent Toolkit, we grow education leaders’ capacities to authentically engage young people. Through these tools, we’ve strengthened the skills and practices of 75+ superintendents, 40 school board members, and dozens of philanthropists and Network organizations including ConnCan, E4E, Stand for Children, The Education Trust, and TNTP. These key industry leaders report growth in their youth engagement abilities, with actionable tools and workplans to explore participatory budgeting, form student advisory councils, and advance equity. This shifts the narrative and power dynamics of education decision-making to give youth increased impact over their education and future. Our youth engagement tools activate the problem-solving, changemaking, storytelling, and partnership-building of young people to shape equitable education systems where all students can thrive.

Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) – Amplify Parent Voices with Powerful Stories, Policy Expertise, and Advocacy Might

PAVE intentionally and constructively asks parents to engage in education policy in DC by creating opportunities for parents to lead, advocate, and influence the education landscape. Actionable tools and research are foundational to all that PAVE does. Parent leaders created the Parents’ Bill of Rights to declare the universal rights of every parent to create more equitable education opportunities for DC families. Annually, PAVE conducts surveys of parents on their beliefs, experiences, and priorities for DC’s public schools. These surveys inform PAVE’s advocacy and influence public policy in DC. The Parent Leaders in Education scope and sequence develops parents as partners and policy leaders so that decision-makers understand the true needs and experiences of parents.

CONNECT: Parents meet PAVE staff who connect them to resources, and to other parents in their war and community.

INFORM: PAVE informs parents on policy, research and advocacy, engages them with their elected officials and policymakers. Parents attend events, go to house meetings hosted by parent leaders, and testify at hearings. 

EMPOWER: Parents then bring their voices together as leaders: they participate on Parent Leaders in Education Boards, recruit other parents, and share their voices through blogs, op-eds, and on social media.

The Education Trust – Equal is Not Good Enough

The “Equal is not Good Enough” suite of materials increased awareness of funding gaps between school districts in states, as well as school-by-school data that can highlight gaps within districts. The materials provide state-by-state information on inequities in state and local funding between districts based on percentages of students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and English learners – while most organizations solely focus on income-based inequities. The data tool – which is the most easily accessible of its kind – shares newly available school-by-school spending data with the contextual information and across-school comparisons needed to make meaning of the data and better understand spending inequities within districts. The report, brief, and data tool help combat an emerging narrative that funding gaps have been “fixed,” and makes clear that equal funding between high- and low-need schools and districts is not good enough. Top media coverage pieces reached an estimated audience of 2.8 million and included Education Week, K-12 Education Dive, and Word in Black. We were also invited to present findings from the report at a school finance workshop hosted by the Education Writers Association at SXSW EDU, and at EWA’s national seminar. The report has been cited by many national partners and in ED’s recent Dear Colleague letter about resource allocation reviews.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute – The National Working Group on Advanced Education: Building a Wider, More Diverse Pipeline of Advanced Learners

The National Working Group on Advanced Education was formed in Spring 2022. The purpose of this diverse, bipartisan Working Group was to identify a set of recommendations for school districts, charter networks, and state leaders to use in better developing the talents of these high-ability students, with special attention devoted to students from racially underrepresented groups and low-income backgrounds. Members of the twenty-person Working Group include researchers, practitioners, and advocates and represent diversity in terms of ideology, race, gender, and geography. The group’s final report, “Building a Wider, More Diverse Pipeline of Advanced Learners”, released in June 2023, is the product of that work, and comprises thirty-six recommendations for how districts, charter networks, and states can build a continuum of advanced learning opportunities, customized to individual students’ needs and abilities, that spans the K–12 spectrum.

Ashley Schmidt

Ashley Schmidt

Managing Director, Communications & Member Engagement